An American Editor

March 21, 2016

Lyonizing Word: But Which Styles?

by Jack Lyon

In my previous article, Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word, I explained how to make Microsoft Word display only the paragraph styles you want to use. But that raises an important question: Which paragraph styles do you want to use?

If you’re writing a simple business letter, the only style you may need is Word’s default of Normal. But if you’re editing a book, things immediately become much more complicated. Consider: What different kinds of text exist in a book? Let’s start with the title page; at a minimum, it includes the following elements:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Publisher

It may also include these:

  • Subtitle
  • Publication date

And that means you’ll probably need a paragraph style for each one of those. Why? Because the designer may want to format each element differently. Even if that ends up not being the case, you’ve at least allowed for the possibility. In addition, using a different style for each element makes it possible to use those elements as metadata, and that can be important in electronic publishing. Back in the late 1990s, I was involved in the production of an enormous electronic library. Most of the books were already styled with—that’s right—Title, Author, and Publisher, making it fairly easy to access those elements through a database and thus allow the user to sort books by title, author, and so on.

What styles will you need as you get into the book’s chapters? You might want to pull a couple of books off your shelves and see. You’ll probably find that you’ll need (at a minimum):

  • Chapter number
  • Chapter title
  • Body text

And as you get deeper into the book, you may need some of the following:

  • Block quotation
  • Poetry
  • Subheading
  • Subsubheading

Most books include a multitude of other elements, such as:

  • Dedication
  • Epigraph
  • Caption
  • Notes
  • Bibliography

And on and on and on.

Do you really need all of this detail? Yes, you do. Even if epigraphs and captions are going to look the same (e.g., both will use left-justified 10-point New Century Schoolbook), you as an editor, working in an editorial capacity, shouldn’t be thinking about how epigraphs and captions will look; you should be thinking about whether a specific bit of text is an epigraph or a caption and applying the metadata (a style) that marks it as such. Otherwise, the designer and typesetter won’t know for sure which text they need to format in a certain way. In addition, applying the proper metadata (styles) to epigraphs and captions makes them accessible and manipulable in various ways for later electronic publishing.

Can’t you just let the designer or typesetter take care of all this styling? No, you can’t. Deciding what text should be marked with which style is an editorial matter, not a design or typesetting one. Is this bit of text a subheading or a subsubheading? Should that bit of text be run in or pulled out as a block quotation? Is this line really an epigraph or just part of the body text? Is that line a chapter title, or should it be relegated to a subheading? All of these are editorial decisions; they have to do with what the text is and with what the text means.

Design decisions, on the other hand, have to do with how the text looks. The editor has styled this line as an epigraph. Should it be set in Comic Sans? (Horrors!) Should it be set in italics? Should it be a smaller point size than body text? Should it be centered?

So what styles do you really need? It depends on the book. And there’s no way to know without actually going through the book to find out. I tend to do this as I work, creating new styles as the need arises. Hey, that’s a poem! Guess I’ll need a poetry style (which I then create and apply).

And what should my poetry style look like? For editorial purposes, it doesn’t matter, as long as I can tell that the poetry style has been applied. For example, I might set up the style to be indented half an inch on both sides, with the text color set to blue. When the designer and typesetter bring the text into InDesign, they can redefine the style any way they like. But for now, I can tell that I’ve styled that text as poetry, which, for me as an editor, is all that matters.

In this article, I’ve assumed that you’re creating the styles you need to use, as that’s how I usually work. But for the most part, editors who work for publishers don’t need to do that. Publishers often have their own sets of styles that they require editors to use, and these styles are usually stored in a Word template. For example, you can download the Springer template and the Wiley template. Both templates are well worth looking at, just so you can get an idea of what publishers are looking for in the way of styled manuscripts. Wiley provides additional information in an online article “Applying Formatting Styles.”

You may also be interested in my Author Tools Template, which is a collection of styles that make it easy for authors (and editors) to produce properly styled manuscripts, which means that publishers can then use those manuscripts without having to restyle the text.

In addition, if you’re working with styles as I’ve explained in this article, you owe it to yourself to check out the Style Inserter in Rich Adin’s EditTools. This is a slick feature that overcomes the problems with styles that I discussed in my previous article (see Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word) and makes it easy to apply publisher styles to a manuscript.

\bodytext\It’s worth noting that some publishers don’t use styles at all. Instead, they require editors to mark up text with publisher-supplied codes like the one at the beginning of this paragraph. In that case, it’s important not to type the codes in by hand, as doing so can easily lead to errors. Instead, editors should use something like Code Inserter, which is included in EditTools.

In the 1980s, I worked on the Penta system, which used such codes extensively. During the 1990s, however, I switched to WordPerfect 6.0 and finally to Microsoft Word, and marking text with styles became a more intuitive way to work.

So what styles do I routinely use today? Here’s the minimal list, which I use in all of the books I publish at Waking Lion Press:

  • Half-Title
  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Author
  • Publisher
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • Epigraph
  • Epigraph Source
  • Part
  • Chapter
  • Section
  • Subsection
  • Block quote
  • Poem
  • Poem Heading
  • Poem Source
  • Bibliography
  • Notes

How about you? What styles do you routinely use? And do you have any tips on how to use them? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

2 Comments »

  1. Excellent explanation, Jack! I’ll share this with other editors if I happen to be mentoring them. (It happens now and then.)

    I edit (mostly educational) nonfiction and online content, so I also use the following styles:

    Paragraph (for regular text)
    Bulleted list (first and second levels)
    Numbered list (first and second levels)
    Table head
    Table text
    Figure caption
    Footnote
    Sidebar head
    Subhead (up to seven levels sometimes)
    Study question
    Answer to study question
    Instruction to designer (usually in bold red and a different font, so it’s easy to see)

    Every manuscript is different, but some variation of these usually appear. I find it easiest to go through the manuscript and apply styles first, as I’m getting rid of extra line breaks, etc., because it helps me evaluate exactly what I have and what work needs to be done. This is especially useful when checking structural issues.

    Anne

    Like

    Comment by Anne Brennan — March 21, 2016 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for your comment, Anne. I work the same way as you do–going through the manuscript and applying styles first. Doing so reveals the structure of the manuscript and makes editing much easier and better, in my opinion.

    Like

    Comment by Jack Lyon — March 22, 2016 @ 1:05 pm | Reply


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